April 27, 2012
The Team of Many Children: CrossFit Embrace
By Julie Brigham

"Big families learn to work together."

To Donna Dowd, 46, organizing the six members of Team CrossFit Embrace from Dothan, Ala., should be an easy task compared to the team of 10 kids she has raised at home.

The mother of 10 has only been CrossFitting for about 15 months, and she finished 29th in the Masters division. Despite her stellar performance, only the top 20 Masters competitors move on to the Games. Dowd was a high school gymnast, a collegiate volleyball player and a marathoner. “All of my kids are athletes,” Dowd says. “They are at home this weekend because of school and they have soccer matches to get to.”

Dowd says all of her kids, who range between the ages of 7 and 23, play year-round sports. “Big families learn to work together,” she says. “I have three kids who also CrossFit and they all support me. I give all the glory to God,” she says.

CrossFit Embrace coach and team member Keisha Brazell says they try to keep the box as family oriented as possible and that between the six team members, they have a total of 17 kids. “Our main focus is to not let our members neglect their family life because they are training more,” Brazell says. “Sometimes we would meet in a park, and the kids would be playing while their parents are training.”

Neal Stanford, another team member on Embrace has two children, ages 3 and 7, who also enjoy watching their dad workout. “Neal’s daughter has a game she plays, where she likes to act like ‘Miss Keisha’ and she uses a rolling pin to practice her clean and jerk and has perfect form,” Brazell says. “Some of the other kids like to come in to the gym wearing knee socks or cut-up Under Armour shirts and use them as arm sleeves.”

CrossFit Embrace did not have a set team before going into Regionals, but they created one based on who would be strongest in the competition. Brazell said they wanted to treat each member of the group as though they were preparing for individual competition and train them accordingly.

CrossFit Embrace came into Regionals in a three-way tie for 11th, and sits in 26th after the first day of competition, with an army of supportive kids cheering them on.